Alexander Kargaltsev is an artist, writer, photographer, actor and film director. In this last capacity he won many prizes including his short movies, The Cell (2010) and The Well (2009), both made when the Moscow-born author held a scholarship at the All-Russian State University of Cinematography, the home of most of the greats of Russian film since Eisenstein and before. Despite the many academic distinctions Kargaltsev has won, his films do not breathe the air of scholarly fustiness. Rather, they speak an individual language of refined imagination, fantasy and beauty of form. Kargaltsev is already a mature artist with a mature voice and a consummate and assured technique, which can both astonish and move.
Photography has been a passion since his boyhood and he has built up a remarkable body of work since that time. He works in all photographic media, including with film, video and digital images, but he is especially fascinated with Polaroid. Initially, his work was based in Russia with his friends as models, with some of his finest work being stills from his movies. He has created a photo-record of himself since adolescence and he has produced a number of extraordinary series of images: naked in a forest glade, sipping from a pool of water; or as a teenager on the balcony of a dacha, eyeing obliquely like a young Bacchus a luxuriant basket of fruit. The element of fantasy is strong, teamed perhaps with austere, yet fantastic elements which verge almost on the masochistic: nude forms in the snow; weird groupings of toy robots; two semi-nude men standing in a chimney vent, an image recalling Samuel Beckett in some respects; various combinations of beautiful men and voluptuous ladies in verdant surrounding. Beautiful, controlled and highly memorable.
Kargaltsev’s range has even expanded since he won a schoarship in New York Film Academy and moved to New York City in 2010. His fascination with the naked body in urban surroundings has been given full rein with marvellous portraits in Central Park and with his round dances of African Americans in an industrial wasteland, like a Matisse in the Bronx. But his portraits of the city are also remarkable in their depth and intensity. He experiments with shape and form and in some of his Polaroid shots he has distressed them by scraping and reprinting them to produce shadowy and mysterious, ghostly images. Some of his more recent work has drawn on imagery from his earlier movies. The artist on a roof clutching a string of balloons and the forlorn pierrot, another model naked on the same roof, clutching the same balloons, his pointed party hat like a cuckold’s horn. Kargaltsev is young enough to bring out images from childhood, from fantasy, with an innate and refreshing vigour, but stamped with a maturity of utterance and presentation which is truly innovative and remarkable.